Comments by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of the Councils of State and Ministers during 11th ALBA-TCP Summit of Heads of State, Venezuela, February 5, 2012. Year 54 of the Revolution.

Now, of all the issues in our five meetings, in our humble opinion, the principal issue is that of the Economic Complementarity Council. Everything else depends on the success we have economically.

I am not an economist.  I always ran away from numbers. It must be, maybe, because Fidel and I both, but above all Fidel, when we were students in elementary and secondary school, with the Jesuits there in Santiago de Cuba, in boarding school – we learned a lot, of course – when we behaved badly, there was a brother, Salgueiro was his last name, Spanish as almost all of them were, who would do this (gesture), which meant 30 division problems and he had a system that the result had to be 9 and multiples of nine, so we couldn’t trick him and he gave Fidel hundreds.

We had to be doing that arithmetic during recess. That is to say, I’m not an economist, but life has obliged us to pay attention to this. Because we as well – and I’m talking about 50 years of experience – wanted to do things very rapidly and we didn’t even have enough cadres, and they were good ideas but many went wrong along the way and suffered different fates. Why? I started thinking.

This is my opinion, but also that of our own Party Congress, the documents you have, [referring to the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution], which I don’t know if you’ve read, I gave you the second copy published; now you have to read what was approved, because all of them have been modified, some were eliminated, 65% were modified as a result of the discussions among the population. There are 313 guidelines which are guiding us. This is the program.

Above all, care is being taken to ensure that we study things, that we study feasibility carefully and don’t let ourselves get carried away with enthusiasm. I think that this way, we are actually going to move more rapidly. Of course, this doesn’t mean we do an exhaustive study for the Skerrit coffee roaster, this is a decision you can make, although it affects us.

The agreements we made yesterday, which were magnificent from all points of view, as far as I could tell, based on what I was able to read last night, a little this morning. I discussed them with the heads of our delegation present here, in a brief analysis meeting we had this morning; we were all very satisfied with the issues which had been agreed upon.

Cabrisas made this point in the Economic Council session, he even said, "as the Army General has insisted". This is it, this is the most important issue, that what we do, we do well, not attempting to move too fast and then having to retreat. Fundamental to ALBA’s success, and to the success of its other objectives, is the economic question.

I don’t know what the ALBA Bank might think, or what the ministers might think, I don’t want to ask them either, they say they agree with me and then go look for a bone to pick with you. (Laughter) The thing is, we agree.

I participated before in all those decisions, fast, fast, fast, and later when the time arrived to evaluate them, we saw that we had been mistaken, despite the fact that the ideas were magnificent.

This is all I wanted to add with respect to yesterday’s topic.

I don’t want to take much more time, we’ve already talked and you yourself [Chávez] spoke during the 20th anniversary military parade about the coincidence that the Second Declaration of Havana was made on a February 4; 30 years later the action you led took place in 1992, and as you said, it was the result of a long process. Everything is part of this same process. One thing influences another, and this influences another, that’s how we will continue to advance. The conditions are optimal.

There is CELAC. We have all spoken publicly about this, that it was a great step forward. I believe, I think that in the 200 years of independence in the Americas there has been no more important political event than this, the creation of CELAC. I don’t know if there is a historian here who might say something different.

And likewise with CELAC, now it’s all about working with a great deal of patience, much understanding, unity, putting aside issues upon which we don’t agree, because it’s reasonable, not even in the best marriage is there agreement on all questions, with a diversity of ideas, with respect for all opinions, all government decisions. But of course, this process is a long one, those of us here won’t see it. We have seen the beginning and we have seen that it will move forward.

I don’t want to repeat issues presented by other compañeros, what Correa presented, what Daniel presented, Gonsalves, etc, I don’t have to be adding more. I’m noticing that even Chávez is giving very brief speeches; his minister just gave a brief informational report precisely on the Economic Complementarity Council.

I will be leaving full of optimism. It’s true that we are broadcasting these opinions across the entire continent, you know I am not an advocate of this and that in Cuba we have come together to take our gloves off and discuss things as needed, with all due respect. If we say any little thing here, I want to see the news cables the next day. So-and-so got angry with so-and-so, so-and-so disagreed… Well, here in Venezuela I have to respect what the Comandante en Jefe here might say. But, it’s good that they hear us – that they get to know us.

The other questions, based on what I have been referring to, we have prepared some notes about ALBA, saying that ALBA has accomplished its consolidation as a genuine alliance of independent peoples, committed to integration of a new kind, inspired by solidarity in the quest for social justice.

The implementation of economic and social projects achieved thus far has had an undeniable impact, showing results that cannot be ignored. This is not the integration of the giant translational monopolies, no free trade scheme to support the uncontrolled movement of capital and exploitation of workers. It is a development strategy which is fair and equitable, to support our peoples and, on this basis, has good prospects. Its success has already been demonstrated.

The economic issue is, however, the most difficult, for many reasons. And therefore must be carefully considered before each and every step of strategic scope is taken, as are the decisions made here, which touch upon the interests of several member countries.

Fine, that’s all, Chávez. At least I am in agreement with everything you have said, and with what other compañeros have said, I don’t need to take one more minute, for now. (Applause).


February 6, 2012
Translated by Granma International